Written in Summer 2014 for the seven-disc Criterion Blu-Ray box set, “The Complete Jacques Tati”, and posted on Criterion’s web site on October 28. — J.R.
Even though he was a skilled pantomimist, it’s impossible to imagine Jacques Tati as a film artist without his use of sound, and it’s not always easy to imagine his filmic universe minus color: two of his six features exist in black and white, but only the second of these, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953), was intended exclusively for that format. Tati had a sense of design in terms of both sound and image that expressed itself in painterly “touches” — strategic dabs that informed and inflected his overall compositions. (This shouldn’t be too surprising from the grandson of the man who framed van Gogh’s canvases.)
The fact that he always shot his films without sound and composed his soundtracks separately made it easier for him to use images and sounds interactively, employing sound in part as a way of guiding how we look at his images, by stimulating and directing our imaginations. This means that any discussion of Tati’s mise en scène has to cope with the reality that he effectively directed each of his films twice — once when he shot them and then once again when he composed and recorded their soundtracks.… Read more »
Researching Iranian cinema, even contemporary Iranian cinema, can sometimes be a dicey undertaking, in part because of the variant spellings of names and even a few film titles. I thought enough of Seyyed Reza Mir-Karimi ‘s first feature, The Child and the Soldier (2000), to include it on my list of my 1000 favorite films, included as an appendix in my 2004 collection Essential Cinema. And Fred Camper thought enough of his second feature, Under the Moonlight (2001), to begin his capsule review for the Chicago Reader by writing, “A refreshing version of Islam in which charity and justice are more important than rigid adherence to rules.” And now that I’ve seen his latest feature, which is Iran’s official entry for this year’s Academy Awards, Today — or Today!, as it appears to be written on the screen in Persian -– it’s clear that this director qualifies as a master. But now (today) his name is mainly given in Western sources as Reza Mirkarimi, without the Seyyed or the hyphen, so when I looked up this name on my own web site, I could find nothing. So it seems both ironic and ironically appropriate that the most ethical and humanist cinema we can find in the world today both engages directly with and is often confounded by our ignorance about the world we inhabit.… Read more »
A reprint from the Taipei Times (October 13, 2014), with different illustrations. For the record, I don’t think it was betel nuts that I was chewing at Hou’s 1991 party; what I recall was a kind of barklike Taiwanese form of speed. — J.R.
Narrating Taiwanese identity
The Hou Hsiao-hsien retrospective at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image educates American film buffs about Taiwanese history and identity
By Dana Ter / Contributing reporter in New York
The year was 1991. American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum was experiencing his first authentic night out in Taipei at a late night karaoke party hosted by renowned Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-Hsien (侯孝賢). Fueled by bottles of cognac and a generous supply of betel nuts, the duo belted out Beatles songs until 3am before stumbling home.
Having reviewed Dust in the Wind (戀戀風塵, 1986) and A City of Sadness (悲情城市, 1989) for the Chicago Reader, long-time film critic Rosenbaum was no stranger to Hou’s work. But being in Taipei for the Asia-Pacific Film Festival gave him a better appreciation of the local culture, history and setting.
“I was able to spend my 19 days there less as a tourist than as a part of everyday life in Taipei,” said Rosenbaum, who was in New York this past week for the retrospective “Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien” at the Museum of the Moving Image.… Read more »
From Cinema Scope issue issue 60, Fall 2014. — J.R.
DVD AWARDS 2014
XI edition (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna)
Jurors: Lorenzo Codelli, Alexander Horwath, Mark McElhatten, Paolo Mereghetti and Jonathan Rosenbaum, chaired by Peter von Bagh
BEST SPECIAL FEATURES ON BLU-RAY:
Late Mizoguchi – Eight Films, 1951-1956 (Eureka Entertainment). The publication of eight indisputable masterpieces in stellar transfers on Blu-ray is a cause for celebration. If Eureka is not exclusive in offering these individual titles, what makes this collection especially praiseworthy and indispensable is the scholarship, imagination and care that went into the accompanying 344-page booklet. Over 60 rare production stills are included, many featuring Mizoguchi at work. Striking essays by Keiko I. McDonald, Mark Le Fanu, and Nakagawa Masako are anthologized along with extensively annotated translations of some of the key sources of Japanese literature that inspired some of Mizoguchi’s late films. The volume closes with tributes to the great director written by Tarkovsky, Rivette, Godard, Straub, Angelopoulos, Shinoda, and others. Tony Rayns provides spoken essays and some full-length commentaries.
BEST SPECIAL FEATURES ON DVD:
Pintilie, Cineast (Transilvania Films). An impeccable collection devoted to eleven films by an important and neglected maverick Romanian filmmaker, masterful and acerbic, with invaluable contextualizing extras concerning his life, work, and career drawn from ten separate sources.… Read more »